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IFR Training Part 1



IFR Training

By Chris Liddell


On 13th October 2010 a series of four articles entitled 'Going Solo' appeared on FlightSim.Com written by yours truly - how time flies! I doubt you will have read them unless you are a true veteran! But feel free to do so, as it gives some background to my current series. By way of introduction, my name is Chris Liddell, and I am a keen flight simmer and real world private pilot living in Scotland UK. Going back to my childhood, I always had the ambition to be a pilot, and the previous articles described the process of discovering the world of flight simulation, which then led to my achieving that dream.


The final part of the 'going solo' series ended with me passing my PPL skills test, and gaining my licence.


This article will describe some of the things I have been up to since then, by way of a warm up for the next event in my aviation adventure!


Like many pilots, upon gaining my licence, I was keen to take my friends and family flying. All my training up to this point however, had been on two seat aircraft - the Diamond Katana, and the Cessna 152. The club I rented from also had Cessna 172s - so I got checked out on this new type by my instructor, and then experienced the pleasure of taking passengers into the air! To be honest, I had, like many simmers, probably seen the C172 as a bit of a 'toy' aircraft, and was more interested (in the virtual world) in flying the big jets, and aerobatic types, but as I was to learn, the humble 172 can need careful handling, particularly in the landing phase.



Checked out on the C172



Don't believe me? Well, I was amused to read in a flying magazine an article written by an ex RAF fast jet pilot and combat veteran, who described the difficulties and embarrassment he had when trying to land a 172 on a short grass strip, when he took his family flying one day! In fairness, he had little time logged in the 172, and like all aircraft, it has its own little ways and gotchas which you need to become familiar with - hence the need for 'differences training' when converting to another type - regardless of your experience.


I flew some great flights with various passengers, and in the process notched up more hours and experience. I had become good friends with a fellow PPL student during my training, and we flew often together - which of course halves the cost! My friend (let's call him Tom - to protect the innocent!) had a very different agenda to me though. He was a young guy, and his plan was to become a commercial pilot. I followed his progress through the various ratings, and was really impressed to see first hand how much his flying improved, and became much more professional.


Flying with him was great for me, and of course I learned a whole lot myself as a result of seeing how he flew. He worked his way through his night rating, multi engine rating, instrument rating, commercial pilot rating, and multi crew rating over a period of time, all the while working various jobs to cover the training costs. I went along with him on his long cross country navigation flight which was a pre-requisite for starting his commercial course. I am glad to report that he has now been flying as a first officer for three years with a certain Scottish Regional Airline!


The good thing about flying with another pilot (apart from cost sharing) is having another person to verify decisions, keep a look out, help with flying duties like ATC, changing squawk codes, and of course being a human auto pilot! So far in my real life flying 'career' I have never flown an aircraft with an auto pilot!


Tom also worked at the flying club to make some extra money, and there was a good club atmosphere, where people dropped by for a coffee and to chat about our favorite subject - aviation!



Beautiful scenery enroute to Oban at 6000 feet



I did some great flights to places like Oban, and the Western Isles, as well as getting some grass strip experience. The company which owned the flying club had a lovely Piper Arrow, and I decided to do my complex endorsement. This was great fun, and introduced me to retractable gear (which as a flight simmer has to be the coolest thing ever!), constant speed prop, manifold pressure, more complex fuel system, etc., which added a new dimension to my flying. There is no formal test for the complex endorsement, just 'training as required' and I did my training in about three hours of instruction.



Grass strip flying with the C152



My plan was to fly the Arrow for a bit, doing some longer trips. It was more expensive to hire but it made trips shorter due to its higher cruise speed - a real touring aircraft.


Tragedy struck though, as the Arrow was involved in a fatal accident over water off the west coast of Scotland. I didn't personally know the pilot involved, but it really hit close to home the potential dangers of flying. Without going into any more specifics, the accident seems to have been the result of an encounter with bad weather, and losing control as a result of spacial disorientation (the pilot did not hold an instrument rating).


Instrument flying had always fascinated me, and seemed to be the 'holy grail' of pilot skills.


You get to do all the things forbidden to VFR pilots, such as flying through and above clouds, and instrument approaches - everything I do on flight sim!


Tom my friend has now done his instrument rating, and most pilots agree that it is one of the toughest ratings to achieve. Tom did the course intensively in around three months, passing his test with one of the toughest local examiners, and told me that the first thing he did after getting his IR, was jump into a Cessna 152 and go for a nice VFR sight seeing flight as an antidote to all the grind of the instrument course!



Complex training in the Piper Arrow



Not long after transitioning to the 172, I booked a session with an instructor, as I was still unhappy with the consistency of my landings. I have a great session, and the instructor (who I had never met before) is really great. He is called Jim, and little did I know that he would be the inspiration to the next part of my story!


The more I thought about safety in flying, the more I came to the conclusion that it is vital to have the skills necessary to deal with unexpected problems. One of the biggest killers of GA pilots is flying into bad weather and losing control of the aircraft or flying blind into high ground. During PPL training students get very rudimentary instruction in how to do a 180 degree turn on instruments in order to get out of an unexpected encounter with cloud. Weather is never totally predictable, and even the most prepared pilots can find themselves in deteriorating conditions if the weather turns bad. Like most flight simmers, I have tried a fair bit of instrument flying, and have enjoyed doing ILS approaches in a variety of aircraft (always easy on autopilot!), as well as VOR work, to say nothing of climbing above clouds, and flying in all sort of murky conditions to see what happens!



Loch Lomond



As a real world non instrument rated PPL I am strictly forbidden to enter cloud, and the minima for visual flying (VFR) are laid out in the regulations. Many of us will have watched the '178 seconds to live' videos and during PPL training I have been shown, and experienced how easy it is to become spatially disoriented when your view of the outside is obscured.





Becoming more curious about instrument flying, I ask Jim the instructor to give me an introductory experience of basic instrument flying, and having covered up my view of the outside world, he gets me to fly various heading and altitudes for about an hour, before allowing me to go visual for the landing. I find this to be a fascinating experience, but continue with my normal visual flying hobby for a good while after this. The idea of learning to fly on instruments persists though, and after a good bit of consideration, I decide to take my flying to the next level, and train for an instrument qualification! The next series of articles will describe my experiences as I begin my instrument training - watch this space!


Happy simming!


Chris Liddell

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